I must say that I appreciate the the energy around PD, especially from the Senate, however, I think it is far more telling than you may think and in a bad way. If I may rob a phrase that is common currency for such feelings in Sierra Leone, my response to the Senate, "Eh bo! U hav not don good fo mi." Highlighting the closure of American Centers (among the other names given to them in S.R. 49) or the restructuring of these institutions within embassy compounds couldn't be farther from the reality. Instead, speaking for myself and myself alone, it shows that, even when we start to get serious about PD and how to revamp it, we are out of the loop...by we, I mean the federal government in the School House Rock sense (you haven't lived if you haven't seen School House Rock, but I digress).
Commence reality check sequence in 4...3...2...1...
Please check this quick reference to how citizens of Bo, Sierra Leone's 2nd city, commemorated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (actually the event was on 1-28-09). What's that, Senate? You wasted tax dollars drafting S.R. 49 and my valuable time reading the linked document? I'll accept your apology on official letterhead. Oh, still not convinced? Okay, well, follow this link and realize that you will need both hands to account for all of the American Corner locations in Indonesia alone. We don't have that many embassy compounds within which to barricade all of these American Corners...instead, we've partnered with local institutions to bring America to each locality in the way that matches the people, the time, and the place. Sens. Lugar and Kerry, you still haven't had enough? That's fine, I'm serving it up all day here. You're going to need an abacus to count all of the American Corner locations on this spreadsheet that comes to you care of one of the four American Corner locations in Hungary alone. On top of the spreadsheet, the same American Corner in Eger, Hungary brings you a full agenda for 2008-2009 which includes a lecture series on American culture, a chance to talk with an economist about the economic crisis, a competition on knowledge of the U.S. for secondary students, workshops on studying in the U.S., a lecture series on the 1960s U.S. talking about the movements and people that shaped the decade, "America through Hungarian Eyes" - an amateur photo competition for Hungarians, and a "My America, or that's how I see the U.S." multimedia art competition for primary and secondary school students. After checking out some of these links, it's plain to me that the U.S. Foreign Service is overwhelmingly hunkered down behind embassy walls and scrambling. Okay, so I suppose I laid the sarcasm on a little thick here. Let's step back
Security concerns are not an issue when the U.S. partners with local institutions and actors to bring the message of the U.S. to foreign audiences through an institution that is a step removed from the source. In other words, and as we've seen in our reading assignments and course discussions on propaganda, S.R. 49 would only serve to bring American Corners back closer to the realm of propaganda to be dismissed by the audience rather than a valuable message that comes in a digestible package for foreign publics.
So, requests to our dear Senate: one, please recoup the payments rendered to any staffer associated with the formulation of S.R. 49's understanding of American corners/hubs/centers/resource centers/(insert other name that shows that someone didn't do their research and was trying to cover the bases here) and redirect it to expanding PD in Washington and abroad; two, please invite more important people to the Hill to discuss this topic because any attention is good attention right now - perhaps we can get former Secretary Albright in on a book deal; three, please put a little more effort into the institutionalization of PD in the national security apparatus, but also into the federal government as a whole.
With this last point, it does fall somewhat in line with the "unity of message" point cited from Lugar in the comment to Leslie's posting, but at the same time, it must be comprehensive because there are several departments and agencies that work abroad in oft overlooked capacities. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has its own foreign service and even the Department of Interior has the authority to engage in international affairs.